This summer, the Operational Excellence website is featuring a series of staff spotlights: stories about staff members who’ve taken on new leadership roles since the implementation of OE2C and are helping bring more innovation and efficiency to campus operations. Read more SMU staff spotlights
In the 11 years that Windy Epperson has been at SMU, she has worn several hats. With a background in accounting and purchasing at Baylor Medical Center, she joined the University in 2006 as a purchasing agent in Procurement, followed by a post as the procurement card (“p-card”) administrator. For the past three years, she has been changing the way the University pays its bills as the accounts payable manager.
“My team and I are responsible for timely and accurate payment of SMU bills, while also making sure the University remains in compliance with all regulatory requirements and that we abide by our own University policies when making those payments,” she says. Since taking on her managerial role, she has helped the department look for ways to process payments more efficiently within Shared Services. “We have also explored opportunities to reduce the time spent in preparing and processing the requests to create time savings for the schools and business units,” she says. “Some of the improvements implemented include the electronic submission of payment requests, eliminating scanning by attaching documentation within PeopleSoft, centralizing the receipt of invoices and using DocuSign to obtain electronic approvals. This has eliminated the need for a paper request for payment of an invoice and enabled us to process payments daily rather than twice per week.”
The efforts she makes with her team have paid off in a dramatic way. “Before the changes were implemented, the service level agreement (SLA) for processing payments was 10 days from receipt of the request in Accounts Payable,” she says. “We have reduced the SLA to 5 days.”
Epperson began her role in Accounts Payable (AP) before OE2C, but feels the campus-wide initiative brought new support from SMU leadership to make changes needed to increase efficiencies and customer satisfaction from both vendors and campus constituents. “The restructuring of the department to allow a dedicated AP specialist per school/area has helped that specialist become more familiar with activities for their assigned client and provide better service,” she says.
Her favorite part of the job is research. “Doing the research to resolve an issue for a vendor or internal customer and working toward a resolution that leaves them satisfied is very gratifying,” she says.
Of course, the transition has not been without challenges. “The process of implementing changes is not always smooth, as people are accustomed to doing things the ‘old’ way,” says Epperson. “We spent time explaining the changes to each department/area and detailing how the changes would result in getting vendors paid in a timely and accurate way while reducing time required to submit information for processing. Most feedback from internal customers about the changes has been positive, as they’ve seen the processing time reduced significantly.
“I really credit my accounts payable team for welcoming change and helping guide others on campus through it. They are smart, engaged and work hard to meet or exceed expectations. They are a big reason why our changes have been successful.”
Epperson’s success in cutting the AP processing time from 10 days to 5 days keeps her motivated to make further improvements. “During this fiscal year we plan to implement the upload of worksheets to create vouchers, which will eliminate the need for processors to key hundreds of payments from a worksheet,” she says. “This will result in timely payments and eliminate the possibility of keying errors. We also are looking at ways to take advantage of any available discounts and/or rebates with early payment or different payment methods.
“Our overall goal is to keep finding ways to make the entire bill paying process faster and easier for our vendors and our campus colleagues!”